It is a great honour to be invited to say a few words at this concert of Armenian music, to commemorate the 90 th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and first I would like to extend a warm thank you to Raffi Sarkissian and the organisers, to the conductor Johan Michael Katz, the soloist Susanna Gregorian, and the musicians of The Barn Sinfonietta of Oxted.
In the diary of Vahram Dadrian, then a teenage boy, who survived one of the many death marches of 1915, he says that he had to record the stories of his unfortunate relations, and he says:
"This unspeakable suffering and frightening tragedy of Armenian people must echo forever. Future generations must read these lines and think of ways to prevent the horrifying stories of their people from ever happening again".
The events related by Dadrian, and hundreds of similar accounts written at the time, bear witness to an unspeakable epidemic of hatred and cruelty in which over a million people were murdered, both directly and as a result of the vicious treatment they were subjected to by the deliberate policy of their rulers.
The British knew about the Genocide at the time, because many of the testimonies were collected and authenticates by the distinguished historian Arnold Toynbee and published by the Foreign Office in 1916.
The Americans knew, through the despatches of their Ambassador and the correspondence of American missionaries in Turkey. All this material is now available to scholars through the work of Ara Sarafian and the Gomidas Institute, and now also the German archives on Genocide have been published in Armenia. But with the perceived need by the US and the EU to court Turkey, as a military and trading partner of great importance, there is a tendency to sweep history under the carpet.
The whole sequence of events, from the massacre at Sassun in 1894 and the pogroms of the following two years, through the killings in Cilicia of 1909 to the attempted final solution of 1915-16, and the post war extermination campaign against the infant state of Armenia by Kazim Karabekir, forms a connected pattern from which only one conclusion can be drawn: that there was an intent to destroy the Armenian people, which involved the institutions of the Ottoman state, whoever held the reins of power. But those facts are not taught in our history lessons, and our Government refuses to acknowledge that the Turkish government took a specific decision, even though what was done, and its timing, coincided throughout the whole vast area of the empire which was inhabited by Armenians. I think that if Vahram Dadrian was alive today, he would have to admit that he had only been partially successful in his mission.
"Wer redet heute noch der Verichtung der Armenier?" Who now talks about the destruction of the Armenians, Hitler said to his generals in August 1939, ordering them to kill men, women and children during the invasion of Poland. It was the failure of the world to act firmly in 1919 which gave the Nazis the idea that they could get away with the Holocaust. And every time we turn our backs on genocide, we make it more likely that it will happen again in the future. The word is new, the crime ancient, Leo Kuper wrote, and if we pretend that it didn't exist before it was defined in the language of international law in the Convention of December 1948, we should recall Santayana's dictum, that 'those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it'.But in commemorating the catastrophe of 1915, we must also find ways of achieving reconciliation. Yehudi Menuhin used to say that music was a universal language, enabling understanding between people. He was as dedicated to world peace as he was to the cause of music, and he believed strongly that the two were connected. It is therefore fitting that we should be making this 90 th Anniversary of the Genocide with a concert, so that in our minds we can not only contemplate the grisly fate of million martyrs, but also the task of healing and closure which still lies ahead.